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Thread: Food in the Wizarding World

  1. #1
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    Food in the Wizarding World

    We know that the Weasleys keep chickens, but that's the most intensive bit of animal husbandry we've seen in the series. Though Hogwarts has large greenhouses, the plants grown are used for magical purposes, and not for consumption.

    So the question is, where does the wizarding world get its food from? Since Gamps' Law states that food cannot be conjured, there has to be wizarding farms of some sort, but how large and numerous do you think they would be? Or would wizards just get food from Muggle sources?

    Also, concerning Gamp's law, you can't create food out of nothing, but Hermione says you can increase the quantity with magic. Wouldn't that be something of a contradiction? You could just get one piece of food and duplicate it indefinitely, at which point you are pretty much just creating food purely by magic.

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  2. #2
    Inverarity
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    A friend of mine (a fellow older HP fan who is betaing AQ book three) recently made the observation that this is one of Rowling's many logic!fails. If magic can create living things (e.g., the Serpensortia spell, Hermione's canaries, or making Ron vomit live slugs), then there is no reason why it can't create food. At the various least, the Trio could have used Serpensortia and eaten the snakes, during their camping trip, if they were that hungry.

    There are ways to reason around this -- I personally take the view that Serpensortia actually summons a snake from elsewhere, rather than creating one out of thin air. But that's not attested to in canon, so the creates-snakes-from-nothing interpretation is just as valid.

    As you point out, there are so many other ways that you can, in effect, create food with magic, it's really a pretty stupid rule. Rowling obviously created it for the sole purpose of making the Trio starve on their camping trip so Ron would have a reason to run away, but it's awfully hard to close every loophole that would allow Transformations or various summoning/conjuring Charms to create edible matter.

    All that being said -- since supposedly magic cannot create food , obviously it has to come from somewhere. I would say that the majority does indeed come from Muggle farms. It's always been my view that, in fact, much of the wizarding world's economy originates in the Muggle world, and the fact that their food and raw materials are mostly produced by Muggles is a carefully-guarded secret.

    Intriguing possibilities for those wizards (or goblins!) who act as "middle-men."

    Some wizards may raise chickens or do some farming themselves, but there clearly are not enough wizard farmers and ranchers to feed the entire wizarding population.

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    Don't Xenophilius and Luna do a bit of vegetable gardening and fishing? She is supposedly fishing for Plimpies and they have a Dirigible Plum tree in their front garden. I could imagine Xeno being a 'green' organic-type eco-warrior.

    Doesn't Hagrid grow pumpkins? Or is that just from the movies (or computer games)

    Wizards of course would be right at the forefront of genetically modified food.

    Interesting about the creation of new life with Serpensortia and Hermione's canaries. I always thought of them as illusions, so they wouldn't actually last very long, but Summoning makes a lot of sense.

    I don't see why you couldn't have wizard farmers - landed gentry like the Malfoys, may have farmland that they get an estate manager to look after. Or perhaps the middle men in these cases could be Squibs ... it gives them a purpose.

    Though Hogwarts has large greenhouses, the plants grown are used for magical purposes, and not for consumption.
    Mmm, but just because Harry and Co don't see food grown in the greenhouses, it doesn't mean that no vegetables are grown there. They don't have cookery/gardening lessons, so Sprout is only going to show them the magical plants. Personally, I can see the house-elves toiling away in the greenhouses and in the grounds of Hogwarts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carole
    Doesn't Hagrid grow pumpkins? Or is that just from the movies (or computer games)
    No, he does, and he engorgioes them for the Halloween feast.


    Also, I distinctly remember the mention of "vegetable patches" on the Hogwarts grounds.


    Then, about multiplying food – I guess it's possible to an extent, but that it might be stretching the magic too much after a certain point. Like, you can make five chicken out of one, but a) it won't taste as good, and b) if you make more, they don't even contain actual nutrition. That would be one reason for someone like Mrs. Weasley not to multiply food.

    And as for the conjured animals... I always just assumed that those were no "real" animals, but that they consisted out of magical...something, and would vanish after a while. So you can eat them, maybe, but your stomach might just go "plop" later, and they're gone again.



    I like the idea of Squibs acting as middlemen or farmers, or something like that. But where does a family like the Malfoys get their food from? They wouldn't shop in Muggle places, and wouldn't touch a Squib. After the second war –*yes, I can imagine Squibs being widely tolerated enough. But before that?
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    Although I almost feel like a lot of wizards would see farming as being dirty, peasant-like work that was suitable only for Muggles.

    I know wizards would likely have their own markets, but I feel like the markets wouldn't be above using Muggle suppliers to stock their stores with some of the more mondane foods.

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    Well, clearly wizards aren't buying food at Muggle shops en masse, or they would be much better at blending in. But they don't seem to have their own shops either, as in DH Umbridge and the Muggle-born registrar people scoff at a Muggle-born on trial for having greengrocers for parents (I don't know the page number, but that's definitely in there, because I remember being irritated with JKR for picking a career title that only deepens a pre-existing flaw in the wizarding world).

    So it seems like, at least in Britain, working within the confines of canon, there is some sort of food delivery service - with no physical location - for wizards. As OliveOil_Med said, I imagine most wizards would think it beneath them to farm, even with the aid of magic; moreover, growing food and raising livestock is a very noticeable process, especially as things like tea and sugar would need special magically-modified greenhouses and processing areas. Harry's a great one for not noticing what's not important to the story, but it's just too much to believe all that was going on in the background with no mention.

    As for where the food in the delivery service comes from; that could go either way. There are Muggle-born and half-blood wizards around who could deal with buying food from Muggle suppliers, though I'm sure they'd try to keep that quiet. If that's not the case, there must be the odd wizard out there who enjoys farming. There wouldn't need to be too many, given the size of the wizarding population and that magic is the ultimate labor-saving device. Plus, the importing and exporting of wizard-grown food would give the Department of International Magical Cooperation more to do than quibble over cauldron thickness and flying carpets.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karaley Dargen
    Then, about multiplying food – I guess it's possible to an extent, but that it might be stretching the magic too much after a certain point. Like, you can make five chicken out of one, but a) it won't taste as good, and b) if you make more, they don't even contain actual nutrition. That would be one reason for someone like Mrs. Weasley not to multiply food.

    And as for the conjured animals... I always just assumed that those were no "real" animals, but that they consisted out of magical...something, and would vanish after a while. So you can eat them, maybe, but your stomach might just go "plop" later, and they're gone again.
    I agree - I always thought that transfiguration and charms that change the nature of objects were temporary. There's definitely mention of charms waring off with age in the books. I'd think there'd be a scale to it; something small and easy, like changing the color of a piece of fabric, would be virtually permanent, but changing one thing to something vastly different would, depending on the skill of the wizard, turn back much more quickly. And it doesn't seem likely that magic could create life out of nothingness, so I imagine the animals wizards conjure up / transfigure into existence are, as Inverarity said, summoned from elsewhere; or else they are matter shaped like animals and animated like living things but missing some sort of essential characteristic that true animals have - the way Inferi are animated bodies but not people.

    So if a wizard was to transfigure a rock into a cow, he would not be able to absorb the nutrition from it. Or if he made ten steaks from one, each steak would have only 1/10 the nutritional values. Therefore magic could be used to create food out of nothing (or rather, something that looks/feels/tastes like food), but it would be a pointless, as they would get nothing from it.

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    I can see large farms used for produce in the wizarding world. Just because Rowling does not mention them in the books does not mean they're not there. It wasn't really essential for her to put them into her story as it did not play a vital role in the plot. Of course, if we say that everything which is not explained in the books is a mistake on Rowling's part then that would be ridiculous as there are many things we as writers are unsure about but were not necessary for her to explain.

    It is times like these where we as authors can use our own artistic license, as long as the idea is relatively plausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Equinox Chick
    Mmm, but just because Harry and Co don't see food grown in the greenhouses, it doesn't mean that no vegetables are grown there. They don't have cookery/gardening lessons, so Sprout is only going to show them the magical plants. Personally, I can see the house-elves toiling away in the greenhouses and in the grounds of Hogwarts.
    I agree.

    Personally, I can see house-elves being used to manufacture food products and run 'farms' on a wider scale as well. Who knows, perhaps there are wizard versions of village farmers markets? And if someone lives in the heart of a city, then it would be no trouble to apparate to one of these villages to buy their food. But the idea of squibs is also plausible, however, we do know from the books that squibs are encouraged to enter Muggle society.

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  8. #8
    mahogany_wand
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    To go with Inverarity's point about the snakes and whatnot, I once read a book where the two witches conjured a bunch of stuff up, including oranges, but then the oranges had just disappeared from a local grocery store.

    Also, and I'm not sure of the exact quote, but when the Trio hear Dean, Ted Tonks, and the goblins in the campground, one of the goblins summons a fish from the stream, which always sort of confused me. Couldn't have Hermione done that?

    I think that there probably are grocery stores in the wizarding world- after all, why shouldn't there be? They could farm their own food, sure, but so could we, and we have these convenience stores. That brings us to where these places would be. I think that they would be sort of like St. Mungos or Number 12, Grimould Place, where you have to know they're there in order to get in.

    Just my two cents.

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  9. #9
    twilight_maiden
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    I was seriously about to make this topic. For one of my fics, I invented a food system for the wizarding world, but I'm not sure if it makes sense.

    It's called the Good Witches Cupboard, and basically, it's a catalog. Just about every wizarding household has one. The catalog has just about every kind of food you can think of. When you want to eat something, you take your wand and tap it. Then throw the cash for the food you want onto that food's picture, and it would appear.

    The food comes from an actual cupboard, staffed by house-elves, so I don't think it's breaking any rules. Some households might not get one, but most use it.

    Is this way too complex for a food system? I'm pretty sure that in DH, a supermarket is reffered to as a muggle supermarket, so I'm assuming that wizards don't shop with muggles.

  10. #10
    Halgy
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    Quote Originally Posted by mahogany_wand
    Also, and I'm not sure of the exact quote, but when the Trio hear Dean, Ted Tonks, and the goblins in the campground, one of the goblins summons a fish from the stream, which always sort of confused me. Couldn't have Hermione done that?
    I always assumed that Hermione just didn't think of it. None of the Trio were real good at roughing it.

    As for summoned food, I've always pictured that conjured items one of two things. One, they are summoned from someplace else (eg: when Mrs. Weasley makes good food appear from thin air). Two, they are created purely by magic (eg: Hermione's birds, when Dumbledore 'draws up' a chair at Harry's hearing) and fade with time.

    We know that some charms wear off. For example, the talking picture of Harry that is put up in the common room during OotP, which talks increasingly more shrill and disjointed as the night wore on. Likewise, Hermione comments that Fred and George's 'headless hats' charm wouldn't have a very long life. I've always pictured this type of 'wearing out' to happen to conjured items as well. And if food 'wore out', it would just disappear from the body and not provide any nutrition.


    As for where the Wizarding World gets it's food: Hogwarts does have a vegetable patch. Hagrid tends to it, I believe. At least, he looked after the chickens (he told Dumbledore that someone was killing them in CoS) and was looking for a flesh-eating slug repellent (also in CoS), which were eating the school cabbages.

    I'm sure some food could be purchased from Muggles. However, we know that some magic folk farm (someone--can't remember the name now--offers Bagman half-stakes in their eel farm as a bet in GoF). If wizards farm eels (which are available from Muggles), then it follows that some might farm food as well.

    Plus, one would think that farming would be right simple with magic. The plow turns the soil by itself. Seeds bury themselves. Rain can be conjured if it's too dry. Drought charms can be used if it is too wet. Summoning charms can harvest the whole crop instantly. Trust me; as someone who grew up on a farm, this way is much, MUCH easier.

    Some wizards who live in the country (e.g.: the Weasleys) could farm themselves, but otherwise I'm sure it'd be like in the Muggle world. Some people farm, then sell their crop in towns. Otherwise, I'd imagine having a way to store food at some standard location, from which people could summon it, then pay the farmer later (kinda like having a charge account at a store). Most wizards do this, but some--like the Trio in DH--can't afford to expose themselves even that far.

    Oh! I just had a thought: perhaps wizards make house elves do the farming. Taking care of wizards would involve feeding them, after all. Some wizard could be something like a plantation owner used to, living easy and making all the money while his slaves did all the work. It makes sense, and elves have magic of their own that could aid them.


    Sorry for the novella: I never can write short posts.

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